TOTD 2018-8-19: Fighting War World II

I remember a friend telling me that WW2 was fought with paper and typewriters. That got me thinking of the other things that were lacking that we take for granted. Here is a list.

  1. Pallets and Containers (They used a lot of cargo nets at that time. A lot was moved by  hand.)
  2. Copy machines (I think carbon paper did most of this work.)
  3. Cell phones (They had walkie-talkies but they were cumbersome.)
  4. Helicopters (It took a lot of time to get the wounded to the hospital.)
  5. E-mail (People wrote letters that took weeks or longer to get to people.)
  6. Good weather forecasts (This can really help if you are in the middle of an ocean.)

What am I missing? Oh, there was no CNN.


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Torture Girl revealed

It is August and with all the usual blowhards taking vacation time, journalists have to recycle old stuff, brushing it up just a little so they can pretend that it is news.   I heard an episode of “The World” on NPR that made the usual reckless allegations.   “The World” is a Public Radio International show, produced in partnership with the BBC.   It is tailored for the American NPR audience, so it is thoroughly Leftist and anti-American.

Their most recent was a rehash of the allegations of torture and war crimes on the part of Gina Haspel, President Trump’s head of the CIA.   The allegations are old and stem from a three-month period in  when she was running a CIA black site in Thailand and where an al-Qaeda bad guy was waterboarded.

So in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request, the “National Security Archive” obtained new documents that support stuff that everyone was guessing when she went through confirmation hearings.   The “National Security Archive” is a project at George Washington University.   Their main thing is revealing government secrets through a barrage of FOIA requests.   We haven’t heard much from them in a long time; they were very quiet through the Obama years.

Ho-hum.

I still like the idea that the world thinks of our Director of the CIA as “Torture Girl.”

Go, Trump, go.   MAGA


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This Week’s Book Review – Seven at Santa Cruz

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

Biography offers intimate look at WWII fighter pilot

By MARK LARDAS

Aug 1, 2018

”Seven at Santa Cruz: The Life of Fighter Ace Stanley ‘Swede’ Vejtasa,” by Ted Edwards, Naval Institute Press, 2018, 304 pages, $29.95

Living World War II veterans are fewer each day. First person accounts or histories written using personal interviews of surviving veterans are shrinking.

“Seven at Santa Cruz: The Life of Fighter Ace Stanley ‘Swede’ Vejtasa,” by Ted Edwards is a new biography of Vejtasa that bucks this trend. Edwards used extended interviews with Vejtasa and other World War II veterans researching it.

Nicknamed “Swede” for reasons comprehensible to only mid-20th century naval aviators, Stanley Vejtasa was of Bohemian and Norwegian stock, the first generation born in the United States after his father came here from what today is the Czech Republic and mother from Norway.

He grew up in rural Montana when most children, including him, were fascinated by all things aircraft. He joined the Navy to learn to fly.

He flew a lot and in combat, graduating from flight school just before the United States entered World War II. He flew dive bombers from the aircraft carrier Yorktown as part of the Atlantic “Neutrality Patrol” before Pearl Harbor. After Dec. 7, 1941, he accompanied Yorktown into the Pacific. There, in the action leading up to and including the Battle of the Coral Sea, he hit a Japanese transport off Tulagi, helped sink the Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho, and shot down three Japanese Zero fighters flying combat air patrol over Yorktown. He shot down the Zeros using a Dauntless dive bomber.

That earned him a Navy Cross and a transfer to fighters. Flying an F4F Wildcat from the carrier Enterprise at the battle of Santa Cruz, he shot down seven Japanese aircraft in one day. He saved the Enterprise and got a Navy Cross for that, too.

Edwards’ book follows these battles, but also looks at the totality of Vejtasa’s life, including life growing up in Montana, through Vejtasa’s later career in the Navy, which reached an apex with command of the aircraft carrier Constellation in 1962-63.

Vejtasa died in 2014, but Edwards interviewed him extensively before his death. “Seven at Santa Cruz” provides an intimate look at a man who played a small yet critical role in the Pacific War.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – Persian Gulf Command

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Persian Gulf Command’ shows WWII roots of state turmoil

By MARK LARDAS

July 3, 2018

“Persian Gulf Command: A History of the Second World War in Iran and Iraq,” by Ashley Jackson, Yale University Press, 2018, 432 pages, $30

The 1990 Gulf War was not the first time the United States and Great Britain intervened militarily in the Persian Gulf region. Both fought there during World War II.

“Persian Gulf Command: A History of the Second World War in Iran and Iraq,” by Ashley Jackson, tells the story of that often overlooked and frequently forgotten intervention.

Iran and Iraq were one of Britain’s most important sources of petroleum during World War II. They were also strategically located, linking Britain to India (then the jewel of Britain’s imperial crown), and providinga route to the Soviet Union. Iraq was a British protectorate; Iran independent.

Although neutral when World War II began, both were also, as Jackson shows, pro-Nazi. Persia took the name Iran to highlight their Aryan roots. Jackson shows the consequences of this combination the indigenous populations’ fascist sympathies with their nations’ significance to the Allies.

Jackson covers the entire war, from 1939 through 1945. Despite its strategic significance, in the opening stages of World War II, Britain could devote few military resources to Iran and Iraq. After British reverses in 1940, it had few reinforcements available. What few spare military forces Britain had were needed elsewhere.

The opening chapters show the results. A civil war erupted in Iraq, with pro-Nazi forces attempting to overthrow the British-friendly government. Britain and Germany both assembled scratch forces to support their side in that war. Germany sent aircraft. Britain rushed troops and aircraft from Africa and India. Jackson describes how Britain won that race.

He goes on to show how Germany’s invasion of Russia changed the Soviets from a threat to an ally, albeit one dangerous to Britain’s Persian Gulf interests. He shows how Britain and Russia took over the Iranian oilfields, and later, after the United States entered the war, turned Iran into a major conduit to bring supplies to the Soviet Union.

This book is filled with delicate diplomacy and tantalizing “what-ifs.” “Persian Gulf Command” shows how the roots of the turmoil in the Persian Gulf region in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries had its roots in World War II.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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On the subject of Korea…

On the subject of Korea, I visited South Korea about a dozen times with my previous employer. I have found some scans of photographs I had taken on one of my trips in February of 1986. I share them here to sort of let you know the type of war footing that the South considered themselves under.

Continue reading “On the subject of Korea…”

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This Week’s Book Review – Otto Kretschmer

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Seawriter

Book Review

Kretschmer a record-breaking World War II U-boat captain

By MARK LARDAS

June 5, 2018

“Otto Kretschmer: The Life of the Third Reich’s Highest Scoring U-Boat Commander,” by Lawrence Patterson, Naval Institute Press, 2018, 288 pages, $39.95

Every wartime activity has its ace-of-aces. In submarine warfare it is Otto Kretschmer, the U-boat commander who sank more tonnage than any other submarine commander in any Navy, during World War II.

“Otto Kretschmer: The Life of the Third Reich’s Highest Scoring U-Boat Commander,” by Lawrence Patterson, is a biography of Kretschmer.

During his career, Kretschmer sank 47 merchant ships totaling 272,043 tons. He accomplished this over a remarkable 20 months, between the start of the war in September 1939 and his capture in May 1941.

Kretschmer also became Great Britain’s “favorite German.” As Patterson shows, he was an honorable foe, assisting the crews of the ships he sank when possible. A firm German patriot, he was apolitical, serving his country rather than a party. He was also a daring and worthwhile enemy, something the British rarely resist. After the war he became good friends with Capt. Donald Macintyre, the Royal Navy captain who sank Kretschmer’s U-99.

“Otto Kretschmer” is the first major biography of Kretschmer written since Terrance Robinson’s “The Golden Horseshoe,” in 1955. Patterson’s biography is a more comprehensive and accurate account than was possible when Robinson wrote his in 1955. Patterson had access to files that were still secret in 1955. All the major participants have died, allowing greater frankness.

Greater honesty does not reflect badly on Kretschmer. Rather it allows him to be seen in greater clarity. Regardless of his cause, he is shown as a remarkable war leader. His men called him “Silent Otto” because of his reserve, but greatly respected him.

Patterson was able to accurately re-create Kretschmer’s career, including his early years in the pre-war Kriegsmarine and his wartime service. Patterson reconstructs each of Kretschmer’s war patrols in U-23 and U-99. He also follows Kretschmer’s years as a prisoner of war in Scotland and Canada. (Kretschmer very much believed resistance within the limitation of the laws of war was an officer’s duty as a POW.)

“Otto Kretschmer” is a revealing look at the career of a consummately professional naval officer. For those interested in the Battle of the Atlantic it should not be missed.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – Unlikely General: “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Seawriter

Book Review

Gen. ‘Mad’ Wayne builds army to defeat Native Americans

By MARK LARDAS

May 29, 2018

“Unlikely General: “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America,” by Mary Stockwell, Yale University Press, 2018, 376 pages, $35

They called him “Mad” Anthony Wayne.

“Unlikely General: Mad Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America,” by Mary Stockwell tells his story. A flawed, often-despised man, Wayne rose above his weaknesses to save the United States.

Stockwell frames Wayne’s biography around Wayne’s greatest achievement: his 1794 victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. It permitted the United States to grow into a nation, which spanned the North American continent. Fought at rapids on the Maumee River, Wayne’s Legion of the United States defeated a coalition of Indian tribes battling to keep settlers out of today’s state of Ohio.

The stakes could not have been higher. The Indians got support from the British (then still occupying forts in the Old Northwest Territory the British had ceded to the United States at the end of the American Revolution). The Native Americans had defeated two previous United States armies, including a massacre of the last army sent into the Ohio Territory in 1791. Had Wayne’s army lost, the United States would likely have been constrained east of the Appalachians, with British-sponsored Indian nations controlling the lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.

Stockwell shows how Anthony Wayne built the army, which defeated the Native Americans and did so despite inadequate supplies, inadequate numbers of troops, and a second in command who actively undermined Wayne.

Stockwell starts with the announcement in the nation’s capitol (then-Philadelphia) of the massacre of General Arthur St. Clair’s army at the Wabash. Stockwell then alternates between telling of Wayne’s appointment and conduct as St. Clair’s military successor, with a biography of Wayne’s life. By using this technique, she shows the links between how Wayne rebuilt the U.S. Army in the northwest and his experiences as a farmer and general earlier in his life.

She demonstrates how Wayne may have been the only general officer in the 1790s U.S. Army capable of developing a force to defeat the Native Americans. “Unlikely General” is a book that captures the complexity of the political and military situation in the 1790s, presenting it in terms that make it clear and understandable.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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I Stole This One

The sacrifices that our military men and women make boggle my mind. I am from the generation that ridiculed Vietnam Vets and selfishly thought we were better than them. Yet, in shame and pride, I marvel at, and thank the men and women who have served and protected me and allowed me to live the privileged life that I live. I don’t have words that can thank you enough.

If you have ever read anything I wrote over at that other site, you will know that it involves mostly the Catholic Church. So today, with my first post here, I will shamelessly link to this post from Fr. Z and highlight one of the great men or our country: Fr. Vincent Capodanno.

Memorial Day and Chaplains

Capodanno_prayercardIt is fitting to honor those who served in the armed forces and who gave their lives.

Today I especially have in mind fallen military chaplains.

Here is just one example of service and valor for love of God, neighbor and country.

Father Vince Capodanno was Maryknoll missionary priest.  He was sent first to the missions in Taiwan and later joined the US Navy and served with the 7th Marines in Vietnam and then, after working at the naval hospital, with the 5th Marines.

On 4 September 1967 there was a terrible battle in Que-Son Valley.  As the battle developed Fr. Capodanno heard over the radio that things were getting dicey and so he requested to go out with M company.

As they approached the small village of Chau Lam, they were caught under fire on a knoll.  There was terrible fighting, even hand to hand, and they were almost over run.  Father Capodanno was wounded in the face and his hand was almost severed by a mortar round but he continued to giving last rites and take care of his Marines.  He was killed trying to get to a wounded marine only 15 yards away from an enemy machine gun.

In January 1969, Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno, MM, became the second chaplain in United States history to receive our nation’s highest military honor. “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty …”, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor Citation:

Medal-of-honorFor conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Chaplain of the 3d Battalion, in connection with operations against enemy forces.

In response to reports that the 2d Platoon of M Company was in danger of being overrun by a massed enemy assaulting force, Lt. Capodanno left the relative safety of the company command post and ran through an open area raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon.

Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic-weapons, and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded.

When an exploding mortar round inflicted painful multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he steadfastly refused all medical aid. Instead, he directed the corpsmen to help their wounded comrades and, with calm vigor, continued to move about the battlefield as he provided encouragement by voice and example to the valiant Marines.

Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately 15 yards away, Lt. Capodanno rushed a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gun fire.

By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.

In addition, he was also awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal. The government of Vietnam awarded him the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Silver Star and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with device.

Fr. Capodanno’s cause has been opened:

Prayer to Obtain a Favor Through the Intercession of the Servant of God Father Vincent R. Capodanno, M.M. by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio

Almighty and merciful God, look with Love on those who plead for Your help. Through the intercession of your servant, Father Vincent Capodanno, missionary and Catholic Navy Chaplain, grant the favor I earnestly seek (mention the request). May Vincent, who died bringing consolation to the Marines he was privileged to serve on the field of battle, intercede in my need as I pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I want to add a word of thanks to a priest friend of mine, Fr. Tim Vakoc, with whom I was in seminary.  He suffered serious wounds in Iraq, which, after causing years of suffering, eventually lead to his passing away. May he rest in peace.

These men served in hell armed with love of God and love of country.  We should remember chaplains.

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